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Adams-Jefferson Letters

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  891 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
An intellectual dialogue of the highest plane achieved in America, the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson spanned half a century and embraced government, philosophy, religion, quotidiana, and family griefs and joys. First meeting as delegates to the Continental Congress in 1775, they initiated correspondence in 1777, negotiated jointly as ministers in E ...more
Paperback, 690 pages
Published September 30th 1988 by University of North Carolina Press (first published 1959)
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Community Reviews

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Michael Austin
Nov 23, 2012 Michael Austin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
There are only a few people in the world today who have both patience and the inclination to read 600 pages worth of 200-year-old letters. If you are one of these people, do yourself a favor and read this book now. If you are not one of these people, try really really hard to become one of these people and read this book now. And if you can't possibly imagine ever being the kind of person who reads this kind of book, then do the rest of us a favor and don't go all over the Internet popping off a ...more
Jul 22, 2009 Carrie rated it it was amazing
When I started this book, I assumed I would slog through it, and learn some useful things, and get some enjoyment out of reading these Founding Fathers' own words instead of those of historians. I did not expect it would return to my bookshelf as one of the most beloved books there.

The letters delve deep into the expected — the inner workings of a young democracy, the establishment of a fledgling economic power on the world scene. And yes, there are points of mundane bureaucracy, passages about
Aug 22, 2016 Ran rated it really liked it
How often do you go through other peoples' mail? Not often, I hope, in the legal sense. But if you work as an archivist, you quickly get over the illicit sense of reading personal correspondence. You may start nagging on about handwriting. Luckily, this book was printed for all those historians who will not have to decipher cursive scripts. However, one aspect of personal correspondence that always remains a little bit elusive is complete understanding. Correspondents write in shared secret lang ...more
Mar 28, 2008 Maggie rated it really liked it
One of many books I've stolen from my dad's bookshelf. I ADORE Jefferson and Adams' letters to one another (although the Adams' letters to each other are wonderful to read also). The parallel of Jefferson and Adams' stories, their correspondence repairing their relationship at the end of their lives, the synchronicity of their deaths... pretty amazing stuff. (Such a dork.)
Mar 07, 2016 Rick added it
I was motivated to buy this by the John Adams miniseries. The letters that were read in the final episode were very moving. I imagined I would have to hunt around in the volume for letters as good as the ones read in the series. That was mostly wrong. Not every letter is as good as the best letters, but most are quite readable. And many could have been as entertaining as the ones read in the series. (I loved where the former presidents compared notes on the cranks who came in to deliver their ap ...more
Jul 20, 2016 Vivian is currently reading it
Shelves: read-me
Buddy read with Ran and Diane

July 24, pp. 263-280; 290-338.
How grief opens doors and softens hearts. The death of Mary was unsurprising as the catalyst for reconciliation.

July 31, pp. 339-394.
Aug 7, 395-456.
Aug 14, 559-614
CW Green
Jan 15, 2016 CW Green rated it it was amazing
This book collects the letters exchanged between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson over the course of their 50 year acquaintanceship. Allies at first, friends, then political rivals, and finally comfortable old souls, these letters reflect their political, philosophical, theological and intellectual discussions and disagreements, as well as reflections on the common moments of their lives. It is certainly the most remarkable exchange of correspondence in American history, and among the most remark ...more
Tom Smith
Jan 07, 2016 Tom Smith rated it it was amazing
This is a fundamental piece of literature for anyone seeking to understand the motives, attitudes, fears, and intentions of our founding fathers and their actions. Adams sought a strong federal republic, and Jefferson was fearful of a Federal government with too much power. These letters span over fifty years of their dialogue on revolution, founding a nation, and then watching the "experiment" grow. Their back-and-forths are as relevant today as they were when they were written. I wish that peo ...more
Curtis Taylor
Jan 05, 2016 Curtis Taylor rated it it was amazing
I started reading the during the last class of my Graduate's studies. I have always been interested in history. Having watched a few countries around the world rewrite their history at the sake of losing their overall character, I want to read for myself what "Our" early fathers thought. By reading their personal letters to each other one can see for themselves what Adams and Jefferson believed. We all need to step back a read the history from those that were there and lived it and not have some ...more
Dec 21, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
Sigh, when will we again grace with Statesmen like Adams and Jefferson.
Dan Bernier
Aug 23, 2016 Dan Bernier rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
This was a bit of a labor for me, but one I came to love in the end.

Like I'm sure many people lately, I came to this book via the John Adams 2008 documentary with Paul Giamatti. I wasn't sure if I would read it straight through, or flip through and only read what caught my eye. I suspected the earlier letters would be comparatively boring, that the good stuff would come after they'd retired, and were free to muse and philosophize about government.

As it turned out, I read it straight through. The
Bart Breen
May 23, 2012 Bart Breen rated it it was amazing
Not a book about History, this IS History

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall and to be able to share in the thoughts and happenings of important places and people? Well, if your desires in that regard include the office of the Presidency of the United States and the early days following the American Revolution, that is exactly what this book provides.

As was typical of statesmen of that day, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams maintained a lengthy personal and professional correspondance the
Oct 13, 2013 Schwarzenberger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An collection of letters written between friends who both had what we now call a "classical education". They learned and used rhetoric to an astonishing degree to explain and reiterate to each other things important to the establishment of a new government and a new way of giving all the people a say in it--bear in mind they did not outright subscribe to equal suffrage for all least not out loud. Adams wife, Abigail, did ask John Adams to ..."think of the ladies..." and maybe Jeffers ...more
Nov 25, 2014 Kazen rated it it was amazing
This was my "big read" for 2014 - I read a letter or two every day starting in January and here I am, done a month ahead of schedule. The letters between these two men make for an amazing read, especially after they retire from the public eye. Other reviews will do a better job explaining the context and times of the correspondence, so let me leave you with part of Jefferson's condolence letter to John Adams upon the death of his wife Abigail:
I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open
James Spurgeon
Jan 09, 2014 James Spurgeon rated it it was amazing
This is one of the greatest books that I have read. Two of our most prominent statesmen writing letters back and forth during the early days of our republic. Though there was a long absence during which they were at odds with each other, they still managed to put those differences aside and rekindle their friendship during the last decade of their lives. Not only were they writing about problems our early republic faced, but also topics such as philosophy, religion, education, and their families ...more
May 10, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Fascinating insight into two of our founding fathers. Their similarities and differences formed a bond that helped build a foundation for American politics.
Nov 09, 2007 Brad rated it really liked it
This is a collection of the correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. It may sound boring, but it is actually quite interesting. Adams and Jefferson started out their association as the best of friends, only to see that friendship fall apart when both men campaigned to become president of the new American republic. Their friendship was then renewed during their retirement years. It is a wonderful story to read about, and this book gives you the chance to read their ACTUAL words ins ...more
Jordan Wood
Nov 02, 2015 Jordan Wood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book started off a bit dry, and perhaps a bit too detailed for me. The chapter previews that give a highlight of the content of the letters from each period are great, and their correspondence from the time of their return to the states up until the end of their lives was fascinating. I wish we had minds like these in US politics today.
Tracy Marks
Aug 10, 2015 Tracy Marks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These letters make John and Abigail and Thomas Jefferson come alive on the page. What most intrigued me was the conflict that grew between Adams and Jefferson, Adams' jealousy of his wife's friendship with Jefferson, and the letters between Abigail and Jefferson attempting to deal with the schism. Fascinating!
Aug 13, 2014 CM rated it really liked it
What a unique look at the men who helped form this nation! What an amazing friendship, to have survived political adversity and time and distance. I find it fascinating that so much of their correspondence survived and their heirs and friends took the time to compile their writings to make this volume possible.
Nov 17, 2010 Richard rated it it was amazing
A fantastic collection of the entire correspondence between some of the greatest people of American history. A thoroughly engaging and enlightening experience, permitting one an intimate view into the hearts and lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. I highly recommend it!
Mar 02, 2008 Colin rated it it was amazing
I once spent a week snowed in the house in Plymouth, unable to leave, during which I read this complete correspondence. Few weeks have been so instructive as to the nature of some of our founders.
Danjel Lessard
Feb 22, 2012 Danjel Lessard is currently reading it
As it was throughout John Adams by David McCullough the presentation of the literature that came out of these two men's pens is nothing short of inspiring.
Ray Harris
I got a copy as a Christmas gift in 2009. Thse two men are so different, yet both contributed greatly to what our country became. A great resd.
Jan 18, 2015 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
300 pages of this was enough to count for me. Abigail's letters were by far the most interesting. This was for school, not pleasure.
Kate Duffey
Nov 15, 2013 Kate Duffey marked it as to-read
I would love to tell you what I think, but I'm unable to read this book. What does it mean when it asks "what shelf?" Please help.
Oct 21, 2012 Tyler rated it really liked it
The first part was pretty boring so I skipped ahead and read from April 6th, 1796 until the end of their correspondance.
Laura Petto
Aug 01, 2008 Laura Petto rated it really liked it
Because I seriously need more Adams books.... *grins*

This is an amazing book thusfar.
Sep 25, 2008 Bill added it
A great book. Their use of the language and phrasing is incredible.
Jan 04, 2009 Sheila is currently reading it
Brilliant, detailed, vital exploration of making a new universe.
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  • My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams
  • Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams
  • Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800
  • Writings: Autobiography/Notes on the State of Virginia/Public & Private Papers/Addresses/Letters
  • James Madison: Writings
  • Abigail Adams: A Biography
  • The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800
  • The Sage of Monticello
  • American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence
  • Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr
  • Writings
  • Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787
  • Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams
  • Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage
  • Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence
  • The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States
  • Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder

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“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved - the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

{Letter to Thomas Jefferson, September 3, 1816]”
“...I say, that Power must never be trusted without a check.” 83 likes
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